UF to study fatal heart disease in Doberman pinschers

The inherited disorder can cause sudden death or can eventually lead to congestive heart failure

The influence of genetic mutations on the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Doberman pinschers is the focus of a new study.

A potentially fatal heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy affects nearly half of all Doberman pinschers, and strikes this breed more than any other. The inherited disorder can cause sudden death, or can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine, the trial will follow 300 dogs over their lifetime, with screening tests, owner surveys, and outcomes recorded for each dog.

In addition, the study will evaluate the effect of environmental factors, diet, dietary supplements, and the amount and type of daily activity on the expression of this disease.

So far, almost 200 dogs have been enrolled in the trial. The team expects to reach full enrollment by February 2019.

“Although there are two known genetic mutations associated with DCM, dogs without either mutation have developed the disease, and dogs with one or both mutations might not ever develop the disease,” said Amara Estrada, DVM, professor of cardiology at UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We have multiple projects happening simultaneously designed to understand why some of these Doberman pinschers develop the disease and others do not.”

Although genetics determine a risk for developing a disease, scientists don’t really know much beyond that, said Ryan Fries, DVM, one of the researchers and a specialist in veterinary cardiology and assistant professor at the University of Illinois (U of I). Nancy Morris, DVM, of Mass Veterinary Cardiology Services in Agawam, Mass., is also part of the research team.

“If you look at a population and all you know is the genetic status, you can make a statement such as 80 percent of dogs with this mutation will develop the disease,” Dr. Fries said.

“But what is unique about those 20 percent? What factors influence the 80 percent? Maybe our study will shed some light on those factors in addition to providing basic information about the entire population.”

Estrada and veterinary cardiology collaborators across the country have spent almost a decade studying the disease.

“Important questions have arisen during these evaluations, and we have now launched a prospective clinical trial enrolling 300 Dobermans who have been screened for DCM and followed longitudinally at our respective veterinary practices, national, and regional shows,” Estrada said.

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) will be funding the study, which is expected to cost $12,250.


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23 thoughts on “UF to study fatal heart disease in Doberman pinschers

  1. Last year Dr Fries gave my Doberman, Rayne her first echo when she was two years old at the Doberman Nationals. Everything came back within the normal range. She also donated blood for research. In Jan or Feb this year Dr Fries sent me a letter telling me that she tested positive for DCM1 and DCM2.
    This year at the Doberman Nationals Dr Fries preformed Rayne’s second Echo and diagnosed Rayne with DCM.
    Is there anyway Rayne could participate in this study?

    1. Patti Fetzer, I’m sorry to hear this. I am a breeder and this is why I personally prefer the DNA or blood test for this (DCM) that looks for the repeated gene instead of the echo’s or holters because it can change that quick. She passed her test with good results but the blood told you more. I hope with you finding this out early in her life she can be with you much longer. Even if they are free from this genetically – I still believe it can develope with old age as seniors just like people do. Once again this is just my personal opinion and yes I do test for this.

  2. To those who are interested in participating in the research with their dogs, you’ll be better served if you contact the Cardiology Dept at UF directly–the researchers aren’t likely going to be reading the comments here.


    There is a national database for veterinary clinical trials, that you can also check to find out when a study is recruiting for participants:

  3. I have a 3 month old male. Both his parents were clear of DCM markers. I also have a 3yoa female that has both makers, but is still healthy. Can they be part of the study.

  4. Am so glad you are studying this. Or doberman died of DCM before his third birthday. I hope you can find some answers so that others don’t have to suffer from this loss!

  5. What geographic region do you need to live in to participate? I have 3 dobermans – have done DNA testing on all through Embark & Doberman Diversity Project. One is “at risk” for DCM. Next step is DCM2 test – and halter, echo, etc.
    We live in upstate NY and would love to participate if we can. Two females (4, 3 1/2) and a male 8 months. They’re all related. Females have same parents. Male is the nephew of females (his Mom is my older girl’s litter mate)

  6. At seven and one-half years, my Doberman drooped dead in front of my wife! Diagnosed with DCM/Sudden Death Syndrone, I applaud any and all the scientific studies of this terrible disease! In the two minutes it, took me to get outside, my wife was siting on the backyard sidewalk with his head in her lap. He was not breathing and had no heartbeat. All I could do was stand there and cry my wife was so devastated, that she refuses t get another one! Nobody should have to go thru this pain!

    1. We had our Dobie for 8 years. He was my children’s best friend and a joy to our entire family. One afternoon he went downstairs and passed away from DCM. To this day I cannot bring myself to get another Doberman. They are the best but it devastated us to lose him. It’s been 10 years and I’m still hoping they find a cure and reading up on it with hope.

  7. I lost my male Doberman to DCM two days ago. He was 6.3 years old. He was fit and appeared extremely healthy – full of life and happy. We had no idea he suffered from DCM. He was running as he loved to do and just dropped down dead. It was so shocking. I am from the UK and I suppose I would like to know if he suffered at all. I have a female too who we will be testing on the 24 hour heart monitor – 58% is a huge percentage (one in two).

    1. I am so sorry Deborah. Our 6.5 year old fell to the ground yesterday and died. We are devastated. We live in NJ, USA. Our lovely female was from Betagels Kennel in Serbia, litter, U. We have a male from litter Z. All parents tested negative. We cannot believe that we were not aware of this.

  8. I recently got genetic testing results for my 2 1/2 yr old dobe. She is positive heterozygous for both DCM1 and 2. What is the probability she will develop DCM? Thank you for all your work on this disease.

  9. For anyone interested, I heard that UF and Dr. Estrada are no longer participating in this study. I tried to get my dog enrolled and was told some issues arose that prevented UF from taking part. I assume the other schools are proceeding.

  10. We had an 8 year old male red Dobie. About a month ago, our vet doctor diagnosed him with a heart murmur in a later stage. We were about to make an appointment to see a cardiologist but then he just dropped dead two days ago. Before he was diagnosed with a heart murmur, we would sometimes go for a 3 mile run 3-4 times a month. He was full of energy and he ate well. I would like to get updates in your research and hope to learn from it so I could be better prepared and have more knowledge if / when we adopt another Dobie.